Tomorrow, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is involved in two big events on Toronto’s waterfront: The Canadian Masters Open Water Swimming Championships and the RBC Underwater Cleanup.
Unfortunately, I can’t encourage people to enter the water.
Two days ago, on Wednesday night, both Ashbridges Bay and Humber Wastewater Treatment Plants bypassed for approximately 2 hours. And there wasn’t one notification from the City.
This information wasn’t made public until we called the treatment plants the next morning and posted it on our bypass log.
Further upon investigation, we discovered evidence of sewage from overflows into the harbour.
With this knowledge – and knowing the City of Toronto stopped monitoring beach water quality as of September 1 – it’s hard to give any water user assurance that the water is safe for recreation.
Toronto samples the water from its 11 official beaches, which is approximately 5% of its shoreline. Everything else – the remaining 95% of Toronto’s shoreline – is not monitored.
But Toronto’s recreational water users are everywhere along their waterfront. Torontonians use Lake Ontario for much more than just its beach waters. They’re found swimming, diving, paddling, rowing, boating – and later in the fall, they’ll be surfing.
This demonstrates the need for change.
Toronto should comply with the Minister of Environment’s order to notify the public when its infrastructure doesn’t treat sewage before it enters the lake.
Summers are now stretching into September. And so, the City should adapt. This summer, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper collected water samples from across Toronto's entire waterfront to provide water quality information to Toronto's water users. To help protect the public, the City should extend beach water quality monitoring by at least month and extend their monitoring to all of its waters.
It’s important we give people the tools to help ensure we can enjoy our waterbodies, rain or shine.
Last year, we found ourselves in a similar predicament. This weekend, we find ourselves here again. I can't encourage people to swim or dive or paddle. But I can encourage people to get out and help clean up the shoreline.